How Language Shapes the Way We Think
A lesson based on Lera Boroditsky’s TED talk (2017)
Before you watch
1 Discuss the following questions.
- If English was your first language, do you think you would be a different person now? Why (not)?
Part 1 (00:04 — 02:19)
2 Watch Part 1 of the video and answer the questions.
- What is so special about our ability to use language, according to the speaker?
- Whether or not languages shapes the way we think – has been an issue for centuries. What examples of two opposite opinions does the speaker give?
Part 2 (02:20 — 12:18)
3 Watch Part 2 of the video and make notes. What do we learn from this part of the talk about…
- different ways of talking about space and time (the language of the Kuuk Thaayorre people VS English)?
- number words in different languages?
- colour terms (Russian VS English)?
- the grammatical gender of nouns (German VS Spanish)?
- the grammatical structures which are used to describe accidents (Spanish VS English)?
4 What implications does each of these facts have? Watch this part of the video again and make notes.
Part 3 (12:27 — 14:08)
5 Watch the video up to the end and answer the questions.
- Why does the speaker believe that all languages on the planet should be preserved? What is so good about linguistic diversity?
- According to the speaker, what we learn about the human mind is very biased. What makes her think so?
- What do linguists and neuroscientists (the people who study the brain) have to do in order to get a better understanding of how it works?
6 Answer the questions.
- Go back to Task 1. Would you answer the same questions differently now?
- What is the most interesting fact you learnt from the video?
- Can you give some more examples to prove that speakers of different languages THINK differently?